Opportunity Appalachia Selects Seven High-Impact Projects to Drive Investment and Job Creation in Rural WNC Communities

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ASHEVILLE, NC—JUNE 5, 2024— Opportunity Appalachia, a program of Appalachian Community Capital, and State Lead for North Carolina, Mountain BizWorks, announced selection of 29 projects – including 7 from North Carolina – to participate in its program aimed at increasing job growth, business support, and investment in Central Appalachia. These projects are set to create over 2,700 jobs and attract over $270M in financing, targeting a diverse array of developments such as housing, entrepreneurial and clean energy hubs, manufacturing, community centers, arts & entertainment centers, coworking spaces, and hospitality. 

The chosen projects underscore the increasing investment potential in rural and downtown communities across Central Appalachia. Opportunity Appalachia will actively engage with private investors, banks, Community Development Financial Institutions, New Markets Tax Credits investors, Historic Tax Credit Investors, Opportunity Zone investors, and Federal agencies to highlight these communities and facilitate their access to necessary financing. 

“We are excited to provide essential financial and technical support to our region, fostering investment in job-creating small businesses across sectors like clean energy, manufacturing, entrepreneurial support, the arts, and hospitality,” remarked Appalachian Community Capital (ACC) President & CEO Donna Gambrell, whose organization coordinates the Opportunity Appalachia effort. She added, “Our efforts will support the creation of 390 housing units, help establish or support over 340 businesses, create more than 2,700 new jobs, and attract over $270M in public and private investments.”

Opportunity Appalachia received 94 competitive applications for technical assistance from Eastern Kentucky, Southeast Ohio, East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, Southwest Virginia, and all of West Virginia, representing projects with anticipated costs over $620M. From this impressive pool, the seven North Carolina projects listed below have been selected for participation.

Opportunity Appalachia Selected Projects – North Carolina

  • Innovation Campus, The Industrial Commons, Morganton, NC – Creation of a business accelerator and workforce training center with specialized manufacturing courses to support a hub for innovation in the textile economy. Estimated costs total $51.6 M with creation of 60 high-quality permanent positions.
  • Oak Hill Commons, Pathways & Procurement, Asheville, NC – Construction of 28 new townhome units to serve as affordable housing for the Asheville community. The minority-owned project sponsor estimates costs to total $7.8 M and creation of 100 construction jobs.
  • Olive Dame Campbell Dining Hall and Folk School Visitor’s Center, John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, NC – Creation of a new dining hall and expanded Visitor’s Center to strengthen the Folk School’s operations and connection to the community. Total costs estimated at $5 M with creation of 25 permanent jobs. 
  • Smith Mill Works Expansion, Smith Mill Works, Asheville, NC – Expansion of a community business park to facilitate growth of agricultural and other small businesses as well as development of a community center. Total costs to be determined and creation of 75 permanent jobs is estimated. 
  • The Balsam Mountain Inn, Balsam, NC – Restoration to feature 48 guest rooms, fine and casual full-service dining options, full bar, coffee shop, brewery, spa, and gift shop along with hiking trails across the property’s 21 acres. Total costs estimated at $16 M with creation of 100 permanent jobs.
  • The Old Glory Mill, Burke River Trail Association, Rhodhiss, NC – Transformation of 1907 former mill building into a mixed-use downtown center to include housing, restaurants/shops, river recreation access, town hall, event space, and more. Total costs estimated at $16 M and creation of 54 jobs.
  • West Marion Inc & Alphonso Hardy Technology Collaborative, West Marion Community Forum, Marion, NC – Former pre-integration school for the Black community to transform into an inclusive multi-racial community center housing local nonprofits and businesses, a community kitchen, health clinic, and technology center, supporting Marion’s BIPOC community. The minority-led project sponsor estimates costs to total $10 M with creation of 48 jobs.

“At Mountain BizWorks, we see a lot of incredibly promising projects across the region. We love collaborating with visionary entrepreneurs who are dreaming of bold projects,” shared Matt Raker, Executive Director. “High impact projects like the ones selected in WNC have the capacity to create immense economic opportunity, but they can be derailed by barriers including insufficient pre-development resources or experience. Opportunity Appalachia helps overcome these challenges, and we can’t wait to see what this round of awardees will accomplish.”

Technical assistance will be provided to the selected projects, aiding in the development of investment prospectus, structuring financial transactions, conducting market research, operations planning, architectural design, and carrying out investor outreach.

Following the completion of technical assistance, an Investor Convening event will be held in early 2025 targeting both local and pre-vetted national investors, as well as federal and state funders. Additionally, a curated web-based platform hosting prospectus and pitch decks will also be made available to facilitate investor due diligence.

Since 2020, Opportunity Appalachia has supported 58 projects seeking to secure $471 MM for downtown and rural development. To date, $89 MM has been raised toward these projects, with five projects having closed on their financing. 

This program is supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission, the US Department of Treasury CDFI Fund, Truist Bank, Dogwood Health Trust, the Benedum Foundation, US Bank, and M&T Bank.

“ARC is proud to support Opportunity Appalachia as they continue to invest and partner in growing our region’s rural communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Our residents’ zip codes should not define their destinies. I’m optimistic about the new job opportunities and overall increased quality of life that will take hold in rural Appalachia as a result of these investments and Opportunity Appalachia’s collaborative approach to economic development.”

Opportunity Appalachia is led by a nine-member consortium of regional and national organizations with expertise in financing and marketing that will support local projects to develop sophisticated investment packets geared toward prospective investors. Opportunity Appalachia partners include: Appalachian Community Capital, OhioSE, Opportunity Southwest Virginia / UVA – Wise, Fahe, Mountain BizWorks, West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, University of Tennessee Knoxville, Main Street America, and Coastal Enterprises

Selected projects from other states can be found here.



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